Leevi Madetoja: Symphonies 1 & 3; Okon Fuoko Suite / Helsinki PO, Storgårds


In an earlier review on Expedition Audio from about a year ago (March 12th to be exact), I recommended John Storgårds' recording of Leevi Madetoja's Symphony No. 2 with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra on the Ondine label. This current release from January 2013 is of Madetoja's First and Third symphonies as well as the suite from his ballet Okon Fuoko, a work with a somewhat more modern bent that is considered to demonstrate some of Madetoja's finest writing for orchestra.

Leeve Madetoja (1887-1947) was a student of Sibelius, and as a symphonic composer, he was also well respected by the Finnish master. Madetoja studied music in Helsinki up until 1910 at which time he travelled to Paris, Vienna and Berlin for studies with Vincent d’Indy and Robert Fuchs. The premieres of all three of his symphonies were well received and Madetoja was regarded to be one of the most important Finnish composers in the generation after Sibelius. While they certainly differ in various ways - the Third owes more of a nod to the French post-romantics for example - Madetoja's symphonies can be described as of a late Romantic temperament, full of interesting rhythmic diversity, colorfully orchestrated, concisely structured and imbued with Scandinavian folk elements. They also tend toward a dark, somber atmosphere. The sample in the sidebar is the first movement Allegro from the Symphony No. 1 in F major, Op. 29. You can also play the video below to hear excerpts from the previous Madetoja - Storgårds release of the Second Symphony.

While Madetoja's orchestral music is fairly well represented on disc, little of the composer's vocal music has been recorded; the cantatas and choral works are ripe for discovery. Hopefully Mr. Storgårds will continue his Madetoja project and give us some of these as well as the less recorded orchestral suites, symphonic poems and overtures.

The video below was produces by Ondine and offers excerpts from their previous release of Madetoja's Second Symphony.